The “Golden Rule,” while it is expressed slightly differently, is fundamentally the same in all religions.
In Judaism, the Torah commands, “Love your neighbor as yourself – I am God” (Leviticus 19:18)
Hindu writing instructs, “This is the sum of duty; do naught onto others what you would not have them do unto you.” (Mahabharata 5,1517)
Muslim Qur’an states, “Serve Allah, and join not any partners with Him; and do good to parents, kinsfolk, orphans, those in need, neighbors who are near, neighbors who are strangers, the companion by your side, the wayfarers (ye meet)…(Qur’an 4:36)
Buddha said, “All tremble at punishment. Life is dear to all. Put yourself in the place of others and harm none nor have them harmed.” (Dhp. 130)
In the New Testament, Jesus says, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.’” (Mark 12:30-31)
In modernity, the “Golden Rule” was lived out in the old days through “giving alms” to the poor or by the concept of “charity,” where it simply meant doing good to others. However, the concept of “charity” or “alms” does not fully live out the teachings of the “Golden Rule.”
Charity is often lived out under the umbrella of giving away things that we no longer need nor want. However, giving things to our neighbor items that we no longer have any attachment to does not fulfill the mandate of the Golden Rule. It does not say, “Give to your neighbor the things you are throwing away.”
At the wedding at Cana, Jesus turns the water into wine to help the host, who was going to be embarrassed because he did not have enough money. He was going to run out of wine at a wedding reception. Jesus performed many valuable miracles in healing the sick and preventing thousands of people from going hungry, and the mere embarrassment of a host was nothing to note in comparison. But still, he brings his best, and the guests comment on the quality of his wine.
As we work in the community, our attitude towards our neighbors must be that they are members of our family, not strangers. Often churches will save the best for their members and only give away leftovers to the community. Churches’ mission work is usually wrapped around the attitude that people should be grateful for what little they get.
When I was pastoring a church in Torrance, my church joined another church’s mission project to Tijuana, Mexico. I was assigned lunch duty to prepare lunches for the children of a particularly poor area. The project had planned what they called cheese enchiladas, but it was so bad that children walked away without eating. Many of the people got very upset at the children and called them ungrateful for turning down their lunches. What was worse was that when we finished serving lunches, the group got into a car and went to a restaurant for lunch. They did not even plan to eat what they were offering the people. We never joined that project again.
The foundation of the “Golden Rule” is that we are them, and they are us. Buddhism (Sn. 705) provides a very valuable means of thinking about our relationships with others, “As am I so are others, as are others so am I.” As we work in our community, let us be like Jesus and bring our best to them because it is only by the grace of God that we are in their shoes.